May 8, 2004
Chastain Park Amphitheatre - Atlanta, GA




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    David Bowie:

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David Bowie is ageless. Any thoughts otherwise were laid to rest at Chastain’s opening show of the season. Decked out like an extra from Pirates Of The Caribbean, Bowie instantly brought the sold out crowd to its feet with a punchy “Rebel Rebel.” It’s well known that this is not your average hit parade performer so soon we were off into the land of the obscure and super cool. No, there was no “Changes,” “Fame,” “Space Oddity” or “Blue Jean.” It wasn’t necessary. The music icon has been on a career high lately and luckily, he didn’t skimp on the new classics for easy applause. He did no less than six songs from the current Reality set with admittedly mixed results. “Fall Dog Bombs The Moon” and “New Killer Star” stood strong next to the tried and true while “Looking For Water” came across as a post 9/11 musical update of “Rebel Rebel.” Unfortunately, “Days” and “The Loneliest Guy” should’ve been abandoned, as these were clearly “bathroom songs.” It seems that Bowie noticed the scores of people headed toward the wings to relieve themselves. After the latter, Bowie smiled. “You paid your money. You should get something that you want. Do you want to hear “Ziggy Stardust” or “Let’s Dance”?” He waited and then with perfect timing led the band instead into ”China Girl” with a playful grin. And “China Girl” never once sounded like the ‘80s relic that it is. That’s in large part because he’s finally got a band that understands his catalog.

Guitarist Earl Slick has a blues-rock base so he can handle Stevie Ray Vaughn’s solos from “China Girl” and “Let’s Dance” as easily as Mick Ronson’s work from “Hang On To Yourself” and “All The Young Dudes.” Add to that the phenomenal rhythm section of bassist Gail Ann Dorsey and drummer Sterling Campbell and there’s no way to lose. Gail was featured prominently on what was clearly the highlight of the show to many. On “Under Pressure,” she nailed the essence of Freddy Mercury and went for the sky on the powerful high notes. Sterling had his own spotlight on “Hallo Spaceboy.” Now stripped of its industrial overload, the song was back to the basics. The drummer layered it with more polyrhythms than is safe. There were spectacular performances by all. Those in the know are aware, however, that Bowie’s secret weapon is pianist Mike Garson. He’s been part of the group on and off since The Spiders From Mars. There’s a reason. On the spastic “Battle For Britain,” he forced the band into a Spanish feeling jazz freak out that caused Bowie to start Flamenco dancing. Later in the night, Garson was the bandleader on “Ashes To Ashes.” A few years back, Bowie seemed like an older artist trying desperately to seem current. Oddly, that desperation has paid off. Now, he and his band have found a balance that makes everything in his 35-year career seem fresh and imperative. This group can make “White Light/White Heat” and “I’m Afraid Of Americans “ mesh perfectly. They even make covers of The Pixies’ “Cactus” and The Modern Lovers “Pablo Picasso” make sense.


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About three-quarters of the way through the night, the zenith was reached. A nicely reworked “Always Crashing In The Same Car” preceded a fierce “The Supermen.” The harmony guitar solo caused Bowie to exclaim that he felt like a member of The Darkness for a moment. It was a good call. The night then turned on a dime with “Quicksand.” It was beautiful in all its hopelessness and isolation. The musicians made it swell into a monster of released tension.


  The main set closed with a typically dramatic reading of “Heroes.” Like a bookend, the crowd was on its feet again, swaying in the late spring warmth. They didn’t sit down after the bows. Soon, “Suffragette City” was pounding the upscale Atlanta neighborhood. White lights flashing in faces, guitar solos wailing, Bowie smiling like Dorian Gray. He ended the show the only way he could, calling to the stage a former alter ego. “Ziggy Stardust” made his appearance as the cracked actor that once portrayed him found his motivation one more time. Even without Weird and Gilly, Mick, Carlos or even the youth necessary for his creation, Ziggy played guitar. Let me tell you, he was the nazz.

Chris McKay / concertshots.com

 1. Rebel Rebel
2. New Killer Star
3. Battle for Britain (The Letter)
4. Cactus
5. Pablo Picasso
6. All The Young Dudes
7. China Girl
8. Let's Dance
9. Hang Onto Yourself
10. The Loneliest Guy
11. The Man Who Sold The World
12. Looking For Water
13. Hallo Spaceboy
14. Sunday
15. Heathen (The Rays)
16. Under Pressure
17. Days
18. Fall Dog Bombs the Moon
19. Always Crashing in the Same Car
20. The Supermen
21. Ashes to Ashes
22. Quicksand
23. White Light/White Heat
24. I'm Afraid of Americans
25. "Heroes"

26. Suffragette City
27. Ziggy Stardust

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